Minecraft Impressions article was written prior to Minecraft 1.0.0 being released
The appeal of Minecraft is hard to explain to people. What the game actually is simple; essentially it’s the videogame equivalent of playing with Lego’s. What is difficult to explain is why this simple concept of constructing cabins to castles, shovels to swords and exploring the randomly generated world, two days after purchasing and 15 hours of gameplay later, is why it’s still fun and addicting. Minecraft isn’t a visually appealing game nor does it have quests, levels, or rewards in the traditional sense of accomplishing a predetermined goal. The reward is the player’s investment into exploring, and enjoyment of creating something from scratch and increasing the quality of your equipment.
Minecraft’s graphical look is rudimentary, as if it was a computer game from about 10 or 15 years ago. The games graphical style takes the form of pixelated blocks and while unappealing to many who enjoy the current generation of video games graphics, the game play is what will have you coming back to this title. I’ve had friends look over my shoulder while playing and make comments like, “Why would you play a game that looks like that? “This game was free right?”, “this is all you do?” And much like those friends, I was skeptical when I watched my friend play it over the summer, until he let me sit down with the game for an hour. I was instantly hooked as the games fun factor was limited only by my imagination and the urge to explore just a bit farther.
Players choose from survival mode or creative mode, survival mode being the more interesting and ultimately the way the game should be played. Survival mode has players keeping track of your characters health, how hungry they are, enemies are spontaneously introduced to the environment and there is a day and night cycle along changes in weather. When a player starts a new game they spawn into a randomly generated world that consists of a vast open area that is filled with towering mountains, forests, deserts, large bodies of water and snow covered areas. The land that you’ll explore in each world you create is different from the last along with the location of dungeons you may discover either in plain sight or burrowed underground that the player must find through excavation. This adds to the re-play ability of Minecraft, as if a player for any reason doesn’t like the generated world they can re-start in a new area that will be completely different form the previous one.
To create equipment needed to help you discover dungeons, build houses and even defend yourself you’re going to need natural resources that can be crafted from a work bench or a furnace both of which you have to create from scratch. When you activate one of these workstations, a 3×3 grid appears and you lay the resources in a pattern that is indicative of what the object in real life looks like. For example if I want to make a pick axe you place two sticks, that have been crafted from scavenged wood, and place three stones across the top of the box to resemble the shape of a pickaxe. Equipment degrades over time depending upon how often you use it and the durability of the material it is made from. More durable equipment requires resources that can only be found within vast dungeons that will not only require time to traverse but also fending off those that go bump in the night.
When players die in Minecraft they re-spawn in the area that you began the game in, but with none of the acquired equipment. This results in the shouting of numerous obscenities as you have to travel it back to where the player died, with no indicator as to which direction your body us, to re-obtain their equipment and perhaps fight the opposition that killed them in the first place. The games day and night cycle isn’t just for atmosphere as when the sun starts to set, players should high tail it to their secure house as enemies only come out at night. Enemies take the form of, giant spiders, zombies, archer skeletons and silent exploding creatures and combating these horrors during first few hours of gameplay is quite futile as the player has a lack of appropriate equipment to defeat them with. The inclusion of enemies is a unique thing in Minecraft, as combat is not the games focus, though you do gain experience, items and makes the game quite challenging at times.
It’s remarkable that Minecraft is as enjoyable as it is considering the game is still in beta testing and the final version won’t be available till later this year. The beta costs $21 (£16.95) and while it isn’t a finished product per say it certainly feels like one. People who purchase now , at a discounted price, will not only get to play the game while it’s still being updated but also will have free access to future updates after the game is released. The game also features a multiplayer mode that enables several people to inhabit a server and construct buildings together, much like the games single player create mode. During a brief foray into this mode, I explored a vast cathedral that several of my friends had spent a month working on.
Minecraft is easily my favorite game that I’ve played in recent memory. Starting with nothing and manipulating the environment around you, while exploring every nook and cranny the world has to offer is really a unique and amazing experience. I can’t recommend Minecraft highly enough other than to purchase and get building.
Minecraft is available for purchase for PC and MAC at http://www.minecraft.net/